NBC lacks power to impose fines on broadcast stations – Court
AFederal High Court, Abuja, yesterday ordered a perpetual injunction restraining the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from imposing fines, henceforth, on broadcast stations in Nigeria.
Justice James Omotosho, in a judgement, also set aside the N500,000 fines imposed, on March 1, 2019, on each of the 45 broadcast stations.
Justice Omotosho held that the NBC, not being a court of law, had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations.
He further held that the NBC Code, which gives the commission the power to impose sanction, is in conflict with Section 6 of the Constitution that vested judicial power in the court of law.
He said the court would not sit idle and watch a body imposing fine arbitrarily without recourse to the law.
He said the commission did not comply with the law when it sat as a complainant and at the same time, the court and the judge on its own matter.
The judge agreed that the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, being a subsidiary legislation that empowers an administrative body such as the NBC to enforce its provisions, cannot confer judicial powers on the commission to impose criminal sanctions or penalties such as fines.
He also agreed that the commission, not being Nigerian police, had no power to conduct criminal investigation that would lead to criminal trial and imposition of sanctions.
“This will go against the doctrine of separation of powers,” he said.
Omotosho held that what the doctrine sought to achieve was to prevent tyranny by concentrating too much powers in one organ.
“The action of the respondent qualifies as excessiveness” as it had ascribed to itself the judicial and executive powers.
The NBC had, on March 1, 2019, imposed the sum of N500, 000 each on 45 broadcast stations in the country over alleged violation of its code.
However, the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda had, in an originating motions marked: FHC/ABJ/ CS/1386/2021, had sued the NBC as sole respondent in the suit.
Justice Omotosho ruled that the fines imposed by the NBC as punishment for commission of various offences under its code were contrary to the law and hereby declared as unconstitutional, null and void. (NAN)